In 1979, a group formed and began meeting to address the problem of domestic violence in Hillsdale County. Members of the group included: formerly battered women, social service workers, mental health workers, law enforcement professionals and feminists. The group organized training for volunteers in November 1979 in preparation of opening a 24-hour crisis line. The line was opened December 1, 1979 and we helped our first domestic violence victim on December 8th. We had three volunteer safe homes in which to place people for up to three days.
In January of 1980, we received a grant from the Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board of the State of Michigan. This grant has increased over the years and continues to be our largest single source of funding. It was that very year, that we rented an office in downtown Hillsdale and hired two part time coordinators, and a part-time secretary.
In 1981, our first full year, we worked with 102 women. We held volunteer training's and used between 5 and 8 safe homes, that were made available to us. Occasionally we transported a family to the Jackson AWARE shelter for longer housing.
In 1983, we began renting a house, to use as a shelter, and moved our offices into this location. This is where we remain today. The services that we offer have increased. We began contracting to a local counselor to run a batterers group in 1984.
In 1986, a batterer broke into our shelter and although no one was hurt, the experience was frightening. We endeavored to make the shelter more secure, a decision which led to the desire to purchase the shelter. Consequently, we began making plans for a capitol fund campaign to raise funds to purchase and renovate the shelter. The campaign took place in 1986-87 and raised $92,000. In the spring, we purchased the house and began renovation construction in 1987. Among the renovations were; a back stairway to the new living room, additional offices with staff bathroom as well as a ramp being added to the rear of the building. In November of that same year, we hired a part time Children’s Advocate to work with the children and the mothers on parenting issues. In August, we were able to hire a part time counselor to provide individual and group counseling with a grant from VOCA.
In 1988, we began offering a prevention education program to all the surrounding area schools.
In 1990, we added a part-time volunteer coordinator to train and organize local volunteers.
In 1993, we sponsored a two-day domestic violence training with Ellen Pence, Duluth MN. Later that year, we assisted the prosecutor in adapting a pro-arrest policy, followed by police training with Domestic Harmony assistance.
In 1994, we added a part-time legal advocate to our staff.
In 1995, Domestic Harmony started the esteemed Duck Derby, that has now become a staple in the community since it takes place during the annual Riverfest in Jonesville, Michigan. Duck Derby is when 3,500 Rubber Ducks are released into the St. Joseph river for a chance to win a prize, while supporting our great cause. It is a family-oriented, community event, which has been extremely successful! The great success of the Domestic Harmony Duck Derby is due to the contributions of business, and organizations who have supported the event.
In 1997, we were funded by STOP to provide a victim advocate at the prosecutor’s office. This grant also resulted in having a toll free line available, which we still have to this day.
In December of 1998, our founder, Kristin Lucas, resigned after 19 years of directing Domestic Harmony.
In January of 2000, Renee Batt was hired as the third Executive Director. Also in 2000, we held a domestic violence workshop for police and other community members.
In 2012, Julia Denig, stepped in as our Executive Director. During her time in position, Julia helped inspire the House Bill 4563 that was passed by legislation.
Our Board of Directors consists of thirteen community members who give generously of their time to ensure our continued operation.
Most recently, Domestic Harmony has seen many wonderful updates to the shelter. We have been the recipient of two Mary Kay grants, which allowed for us to have a new roof put on, additional new flooring and a ramp that will allow for easier access to the building. We have been fortunate to have a wonderful group of people from the Hillsdale First Presbyterian Church come in and remodel the shelter including; updating our living room flooring, painting and decorating.
In 2014, we were saddened at the sudden passing of fellow staff member, Ms. Aimee England. Aimee served as our Volunteer Coordinator and Weekend Worker. Before becoming an employee, she had served as a volunteer for more than twenty-five years. The staff and Hillsdale community continue to miss her warmth and generosity.
In 2016, we received a grant from the HCCF that provided funding for new windows to be installed in the shelter. We've received various grants from the HCCF over the years and because of their support we were able to install a new phone system that was greatly needed!
Our founder, Kristin Lucas, earned the Golden Deeds Award in 2018 for all of her hard work and continued efforts.
In 2018, Becky Davis, stepped in as our Executive Director. Becky had been an employee of Domestic Harmony already in other positions since 2015, and then was hired as the Executive Director, with the motto "new leader, same direction."
In December 2019, Hannah Jordan took over as Becky Davis stepped down to take a position with Hillsdale County Intermediate School District. From 2014-2019, Hannah worked for the county Friend of the Court and served as a probation officer.
We are currently a staff of eleven, hard working individuals who believe in the work we do. As we move forward in this work, the staff and board of directors would like for the Hillsdale community to know how much we appreciate the tremendous support they continue to provide our shelter with!